Do you need a lawyer, Mr. Salmond?
I seem fated to be fish and fowl. My mother was English of Irish origin and my father, RD Laing, would cry out that he was '100% Scottish, of Viking blood' (when the whiskey took over).
Professionally I am a Solicitor but also a Barrister; a hybrid state that Solicitors seem to accept more easily than the Bar.
And so the thought occurred to me against the background of two events which are close to my heart - the impending referendum on the independence of Scotland and the forthcoming publication of the 5th edition of 'The Media and Business Contract Handbook' (Bloomsbury Professional) - that the commonality of these seismic events is the issue of the detailed constitutional terms between one 'party' (England) and another (Scotland).
Whether the voters in September decide 'yes' or 'no' to independence there will inevitably be considerable, passionate debate over the formal relationship between two great countries.
Hence I think Mr. Salmond needs a contract lawyer in any event, particularly if the 'result' is close either way. Might I - with all due respect - suggest that come what may a new 'contract' needs to be negotiated between England and Scotland?
To that end I would be delighted to see Mr. Salmond in the front row of the seminar being held at the Law Society on Friday the 28th of March 2014 on the theme: 'The Essence and Art of Contract Drafting'.
I can promise Mr Salmond some pertinent advice. First off he should be thinking in terms of a clear and well-structured written agreement with England. The 18th century 'Articles of Association' binding England and Scotland might be thought of a useful though somewhat historical 'Memorandum of Understanding' but they are clearly lacking in the 'definitions' department which is somewhat irksome to a contract lawyer.
It is time to bite the bullet and get down to the nitty-gritty. The whole point of a contract is to have and resolve arguments before the agreement is signed. Therefore one must be bold in putting on the table the thorny issues and be willing to grasp the nettle / thistle from the outset.
The big issues are only now being flushed out: currency, immigration, tax, EU membership, ownership of offshore resources, for example. But there are still a number of elephants in the room so to speak and to be constructive I would suggest that the essential terms to be defined in my proposed 'Terms of Alliance' are:
1. Head of State of Scotland (is this Mr. Salmond or Queen Elizabeth II?). Best to resolve that one, now;
2. Scottish Currency (you've been told about this one, Mr Salmond);
3. Royalty split of offshore resources (must bear in mind pre-existing contracts);
4. Passport / immigration control (can't ignore this one);
5. Team Scotland (fair amount of work to do with the International Tennis Federation (ITF);
Professional Golfers' Association (PGA of America and Europe) and the International Olympics Committee (IOC), this should be clarified with England a.s.a.p).
The above are only a small number of big issues which it seems apparent should be placed in the 'definitions' pile. This will help bring matters to a head.
Once you have read this wee piece Mr. Salmond please do book your place on the course but do hurry, spaces are limited.